My mother was known as the best blintz maker of our family. In our house, they were filled with delicately sweet cheese or once in a while with sweet fruit fillings - but never with meat fillings. As a child, I wasn't really familiar with meat blintzes, except for occasional tastes at bar mitzvas.
Recently, I was reminded how delicious meat blintzes can be when I sampled the scrumptious chicken blintzes made by my next-door Ukrainian neighbor, Valya, at a holiday party she gave. Her filling was easy to make; she cooked ground chicken and combined it with fried onions, salt and pepper. Then she filled the 'crepes' or blintz wrappers, and heated them by frying them in grapeseed oil in a skillet. She made the wrappers the way my mother did. Whenever she was in a hurry, she told me, she bought them at her favorite Russian deli.
Valya explained that the filling is even better when made by chopping a cooked piece of chicken or beef instead of cooking raw ground meat. With such a simple filling, I wondered what made these meat blintzes taste so good.
I asked Valya, and discovered that she uses two techniques that were different from those I was used to. Instead of spooning all the filling in a row at one side of the blintz and folding the wrapper to enclose it, she spreads the filling in a thin layer all over the blintz and then rolls it up. In addition, she makes each blintz from two wrappers instead of one. The result: There are more layers of blintz crepe and a higher ratio of crepe to filling in each bite.
If you love the taste of blintz wrappers even without filling, as I do, this unconventional method produces a delightful result.
Traditional Ashkenazi cooks often make meat blintzes. Sylvie Jouffa, author of La Cuisine Juive a Travers Le Monde (Jewish cooking throughout the world), makes her meat filling much like Valya's, from ground beef sauteed with chopped onions. She considers this version Polish and suggests serving the blintzes with borscht.
Aviva Goldman, author of The Kosher Cookbook (in Hebrew), one of the first cookbooks I acquired, in the early Seventies, features a variety of fleishig blintz recipes.
One is filled with ground roast beef mixed with a little of the meat's flour-thickened roasting juices. Another, which must be her favorite since she called it 'Aviva's style,' called for frying ground beef, carrot and celery with a sauteed onion, then cooking the mixture for two hours with tomato paste, salt, pepper and paprika and thickening it with a flour-and-water solution.
Goldman features somewhat offbeat blintz fillings too, one made of chopped liver, prepared by the same method as for making it for a cold spread, and even one made with brains. After the blintzes are folded, Goldman recommends serving them with mushroom sauce or garlic sauce, or preparing them 'Hungarian style' by dipping them in beaten egg and bread crumbs and frying them - a sort of blintz meets schnitzel!
HERBED BLINTZES FOR MEAT FILLINGS
Blintzes don't usually have herbs, and you can omit them if you don't have them, but I find them a lively addition to the classic. Use these savory wrappers for preparing appetizer or main-course blintzes with meat or poultry fillings, or for cutting in strips and serving in chicken soup. For vegetarian fillings, you could substitute vegetable broth.
Blintzes are easiest to saute in a nonstick crepe pan or skillet. Smaller pans are easier to handle so you can lift the pan and slide the blintzes out onto a plate.
Makes about 12 large or 15 small blintzes
3 large eggs
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of white pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus a few teaspoons for pan
2 tsp. snipped fresh chives or chopped parsley
In a blender, combine eggs, 1 cup broth, flour, salt, pepper and thyme. Blend on high speed about 1 minute or until batter is smooth.
To prepare batter by hand, sift flour into a medium bowl. Push flour to sides of bowl, leaving a large well in center of flour. Add eggs, salt, pepper, thyme and 1/4 cup water to well; whisk them briefly until blended. Using the whisk, gradually stir flour into egg mixture until mixture is smooth. Gradually whisk in 3/4 cup broth.
Strain batter if it is lumpy. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour or up to 1 day.
When you're ready to saute the blintzes, stir batter well. Gradually whisk 2 tablespoons oil into batter. Whisk in chives.
Batter should have consistency of whipping cream. If it is too thick, gradually whisk in water, about 1 tablespoon at a time.
Heat a 15- to 16.5-cm crepe pan or skillet or a 20- to 23-cm. skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pan with a few drops of water. If water immediately sizzles, pan is hot enough. Brush pan lightly with oil. Remove pan from heat and hold it near bowl of batter. Working quickly, add 2 tablespoons batter to small pan or 3 tablespoons to large pan; add batter to edge of pan and tilt and swirl pan until base is covered with a thin layer of batter. Immediately pour any excess batter back into bowl.
Return pan to medium-high heat. Loosen edges of blintz with a metal spatula, discarding any pieces clinging to sides of pan. Cook blintz until its bottom browns very lightly. Slide blintz out onto a plate, with uncooked side facing up. Top with a sheet of waxed paper or foil if desired. Reheat pan a few seconds. Continue making blintzes, stirring batter occasionally with whisk. Adjust heat and brush pan with more oil if necessary. If batter thickens on standing, very gradually whisk in a little more water, about 1 teaspoon at a time. Pile blintzes on plate as they are done.
TURKEY BLINTZES WITH LEEKS AND GINGER
East Asian flavorings - garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and sesame oil - lend pizzazz to these tasty, untraditional blintzes. To reheat the blintzes, either bake them as below, or fry them on both sides in vegetable oil, then sprinkle them with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.
Makes 4 or 5 servings
450 gr. leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed and cut in 6 mm. slices
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced peeled ginger root
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
8 to 10 Herbed Blintzes for Meat Fillings
(see recipe above)
Soak sliced leeks in cold water for 5 minutes to remove any sand. Lift into a colander, rinse and drain well. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet. Add leeks, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until leeks are soft but not brown. If any liquid remains in pan, cook leeks over medium-high heat, stirring, until it evaporates. Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil, quickly stir in garlic and ginger and saute 1Ãš2 minute. Add wine and boil over high heat, stirring, until it is completely absorbed by leek mixture.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool. Add chicken and mix well. Stir in 1 tablespoon sesame oil and pinch of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Lightly oil 2 medium-sized baking dishes. Spoon 3 tablespoons filling onto less attractive side of each blintz, across the third of the blintz nearest you. Slightly fold over each side of the blintz, to your right and left, then roll up in cigar shape, beginning at edge with filling and rolling away from you. Arrange blintzes seam side down in one layer in oiled dish. Brush them with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Preheat oven to 190Â¼C. Bake blintzes about 20 minutes or until filling is hot.
CHICKEN BLINTZES WITH FRIED ONIONS
This is an easy recipe for a traditional blintz filling, especially if you have roasted or other cooked chicken in your refrigerator. Instead of chicken, you can use roasted or braised beef.
If you don't have cooked meat, use ground chicken or beef, following the Note below.
To prepare the blintzes Valya's way, put two blintz wrappers side by side, overlapping by about one third. Then spread the filling all over the blintzes and roll them up together as one large blintz. You will need twice as many blintz wrappers. Reheat them by frying them in grapeseed or other vegetable oil.
Makes enough for 8 to 10 blintzes
2 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
8 to 10 Herbed Blintzes for Meat Fillings
Heat oil in a large skillet, add onion and saute over medium heat, stirring often, until onions turn golden. Add chicken, salt and pepper and stir over low heat to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Fill and heat blintzes as in Turkey Blintzes with Leeks and Ginger, above.
Note: If you don't have cooked chicken, use 1 1/2 cups ground meat. Saute the ground meat in 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet, stirring constantly, until the meat changes color. Add 1/4 cup water and cook the mixture until the water evaporates. Then add the fried onions and heat through.